Writer: Amanda Whittington
Director: Veronica Moran
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
The Public Reviews Rating:
So says Charlie, the eccentric old stoner the title ladies meet on their tour of Down Under. Luckily for them, the road really leads to a great show with some satisfying character development, and not a few giggles along the way.
Ladies Down Under follows the Australian adventures of Pearl (Lynne Whitaker), a retired fish filleter discovering how short life really is, and her three former colleagues – and fellow jackpot winners – Jan (Melanie Duff), a neurotic divorcee; naive-but-sensible Linda (an utterly believable Tania Smith); and last but not least chav model wannabe Shelley (fantastically sustained throughout by Louise Hardy). The show is a sequel to Ladies Day, which was performed previously by the Huddersfield Thespians featuring the same cast. You don’t need to have seen the first one to follow the story though – the four ladies won £100,000 each at Ascot and now they’re trying valiantly to live the dream, whatever that might mean. And finding that meaning is exactly the point of the play.
The writing is brilliantly funny, from the pop culture references and off hand observations, to the frequent off key renditions of Waltzing Matilda. However it also has a poignant side – none of the four main characters (and, to be fair, a hefty chunk of the support characters too) escape without some sort of dramatic issue. The main focus is around why exactly Pearl wants to risk it all in the Outback, which you’ll work out way before the big reveal but is still hard hitting when it comes anyway, mainly due to the solid and caring relationship the four main actors clearly have offstage as well as on. The empathy radiates off the stage as everyone is affected. That said, sometimes the amount of issues you need to keep track of is a little mind boggling. They’re all necessary, but a bit of space between them all would’ve been nice.
The Huddersfield Thespians are an amateur company, and it does show a little with a few line slip ups and cheap costumes (if you’re worth £100,000 you wouldn’t print your own tour t-shirt). On the other hand, for amateurs the company as a whole are very slick. The set has to traverse from Manchester Airport’s departure lounge to Aires Rock via Bondi Beach and Mardi Gras, and the use of a projection screen and minimal set pieces is very effective, especially in the scene on the plane. Scene changes do drag a little, but the darkness is complimented by cheesy music, and most of the audience will probably content themselves singing along to – who else? – Rolf Harris and Kylie while the next location is set up. Special mention must be made of supporting actors Dean Robson and Garry Wilkinson: Ladies Down Under is worth seeing just for the immensely watchable partnership between these two as the BA Air Stewards.
Overall, Ladies Down Under is definitely an enjoyable night out, and you might even come out of it having had a bit of an epiphany about where your own road is leading you. At the very least, it’ll leave you pondering on how long it took Robson and Wilkinson to learn to walk in those heels…
Runs until Saturday 13th October
Tags: Amanda Whittington, Australia, Dean Robson, Garry Wilkinson, Huddersfield, Huddersfield Thespians, Hull Truck, Ladies Day, Ladies Down Under, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Louise Hardy, Lynne Whitaker, Melanie Duff, Tania Smith, Veronica Moran, West Yorkshire